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Food and Wine Tours

Bulgarian cuisine has its roots in a wealth of culinary traditions, some fiercely local and others the result of Bulgaria’s rich history of invasion by other cultures like the Slavs, Greeks and Turks. Some foreign dishes have over the centuries been combined with uniquely Bulgarian cooking methods bringing originality and variety to the Bulgarian table. Not everyone wants to scale mountains or dive for wrecks on their vacation and for those who love their grub and want the taste of real Bulgaria, a food and wine tour is the best way to enjoy the wonders of this enchanting land.

Bulgarian food is predominantly organic and extremely healthy with lots of grilled meat and a wide selection of salads. Bulgarians also seldom mix meat with dairy products – something that health freaks commend. Its wine is of outstanding quality and is the perfect accompaniment to any Bulgarian dish.

The Rhodope Mountains

The majestic Rhodope Mountains in Western Bulgaria are renowned for their local hospitality and tasty cuisine. The most popular dish from this region is the Rhodope Cheverme - lamb roasted on a spit over an open fire.  The smell alone is mouth-watering and the taste better than any other lamb you will ever have had the pleasure to eat. The Rhodopes also produce the best potatoes; they taste different to any other potato ever tasted because they are grown beneath layers of pine needles. The locals prepare them in many different ways; klin is a tasty Rhodopean dish containing Bulgaria’s famous feta cheese and often freshly picked nettles. The Rhodopean potato cake similar to Swiss Roesti is also extremely tasty.The Banitza produced here is also different to that made in other parts of the country; it is cooked from rice, milk, butter and sometimes dock and spinach leaves are added. Other delicious Rhodope dishes are katmi, which are thick pancakes baked on an open fire and kapama, a meat and vegetable stew cooked for eight hours in a traditional clay pot. You could order a bottle of local Mavrud from Assenovgrad to accompany your meal or try a cup of steaming goat’s milk – delicious!

Culinary Delights of Bansko

The ski town of Bansko is one of the best in Bulgaria for great food and wine. The town is full of high quality traditional restaurants serving Banski Sudzhuk, a dish made from pork and sweetbreads, Sache a meal of pork fillet, bacon, carrots, onion, mushrooms, baked peppers and white wine served on a traditional flat, clay plate.  Perhaps the most famous dish in this region is Bansko Kapama. This is a dish, which takes a long time to prepare and is traditionally served on Christmas Eve. It is made from minced pork, pork ribs, chicken, homemade Bulgarian sausage known as karvavitsa, rice and cabbage.  The dish is flavoured with local herbs and black pepper, then the whole dish is covered with the fresh cabbage leaves. Many Bansko restaurants also flavour food with a herb known as Polski Koprets, which grows in the meadows above the town; it tastes really good and smells like a combination of caraway and dill. Bansko is home to many small local wineries and its close proximity to one of Bulgaria’s most acclaimed wine growing regions, Melnik, mean that it has lots to offer even the most fickle connoisseur. The Damianitza Winery is devoted to the production of quality wines; the famous Melnik red was actually one of Winston Churchill’s favourites.

Coastal Cuisine

Fish is of course the speciality on the Black Sea coast and there are many ways in which it is prepared including roasting it in the oven with vegetables or an onion sauce. One of the most popular dishes in this region is the Bulgarian fish soup particularly that made in the Kavarna region, where it is made from several varieties of fish and a chilli sauce. The Dalboka Mussel Farm should also be part of every gourmand’s food tour. Mussels are extremely popular on the coast and it is a common sight to see locals diving for mussels during the summer. The Dalboka Mussel farm is close to Kavarna and offers the largest selection of mussel and seafood dishes in the country. (Read more in our article on mussel farming in our food and drink section.) The classic mussel dish served along the coast is however fresh mussels cooked in a pot with vegetables, white wine and Tabasco sauce. Sozopol Mussels and Tsatsa are also very popular; Tsatsa little more than fresh, fried sprat sprinkled with fresh lemon juice, whilst it is a simple dish it is extremely healthy as the fish is full of protein and also tastes delicious. Dobroudjanska Banitsa is also as speciality of this area. Wineries on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast grow 30% of all of the country’s vines and 53% of all of the country’s white wine. White wine is a perfect accompaniment for the many tasty fish dishes and it is worth trying wines from Pomorie like Muscat, Sauvignon blanc and Ugni blanc.

Nazdrave

Whilst enjoying the many culinary delights in Bulgaria, be sure to try the local grape and plum brandies known as Rakiya. They are served with a salad (the best being the Shopska salad), which is the started to any meal here. Every local will tell you that his home brewed Rakiya is the best you will ever taste – that is a matter of opinion though. One thing is certain it will blow your socks off!

For further reading, take a look at Blue Yonder Holidays article BlueYonderHolidays.com

Pictures courrtesy of  Kiril Kapustin www.imagesfrombulgaria.com